A position-by-position breakdown of the Green Bay-Arizona wild-card matchup on Sunday.
With 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Aaron Rodgers has put together one of the most overlooked seasons of any quarterback. More importantly, after getting sacked with an alarming frequency, he's gotten rid of the ball quicker; hence fewer knockdowns and better production.
Ryan Grant rushed for 1,253 yards in less than spectacular fashion, surpassing the 100-yard mark just three times. However, he could be more dangerous now because he didn't take much wear and tear (averaged 17.6 carries) and seems to be getting stronger as a result (4.9 yards a carry over the past five games).
Greg Jennings and Donald Driver both have more than 1,000 yards this season, and they've pretty much evenly split 138 catches. Driver's consistency has been remarkable, and he's been more of a touchdown target (six) than Jennings (four). Tight end Jermichael Finley is tough to cover in any situation.
Left tackle Mark Tauscher could get some consideration as the Packers' MVP. The offensive line was a mess before he was re-signed at midseason after major offseason knee surgery. The Packers have still allowed a league-high 51 sacks but only seven have come in the past six games.
Jenkins is one of the most underrated players in the game. Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly join Jenkins in settling in nicely after a tough adjustment to the 3-4 front. These guys are athletic space eaters who get rotational help inside and out from rookie B.J. Raji, who plays end and tackle.
Both outside linebackers are rookies, but Clay Matthews and Brad Jones are big-time playmakers. Jones has been more effective in pass coverage than injured vet Aaron Kampman, while Matthews has stood out in coverage and in generating pass pressure. Inside linebacker Nick Barnett's range is key vs. Arizona.
The Packers arguably have the best DBs of any team in the playoffs. CB Charles Woodson could be the Defensive Player of the Year and despite bruising his shoulder in Week 17, he will start. Fellow corner Tramon Williams is a future star. Safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby are big hitters who must be on point in deep coverage.
Placekicker Mason Crosby has been a cause for concern, especially once he gets beyond 40 yards. Every other facet of the kicking game is pretty solid. Jordy Nelson is a good returner in the punting and kicking game.
Mike McCarthy has his team peaking at the right time. He made an interesting move to play a lot of starters in a rather meaningless game against Arizona last week in order to keep continuity. He seems to have a good feel for his roster. Coordinator Dom Capers' defense is locked in.
Green Bay is a red-hot team that gained a sense of confidence by traveling to Arizona and beating the vanilla-based Cardinals in the season finale. Say what you will, but Arizona used a similar win over Seattle last season to get things on track. The Packers are peaking, and playing on the road shouldn't bother them.
Kurt Warner's experience can't be overlooked. He hasn't posted the crazy numbers of last season, but he knows how to play this time of year. Warner also plays his best when the stakes are higher. He has just three interceptions in his last eight games, which is important vs. an opportunistic defense like Green Bay's.
Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells form a powerful tandem that will have to work hard against the NFL's top run defense. The Cardinals are a pass-first team, but Hightower and Wells have been effective when Arizona gets near the goal line. Both guys have some ball security issues, which could be a concern.
Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin also surpassed 1,000 yards apiece. Both are major scoring threats (Fitzgerald had 13 TDs). Boldin suffered a left ankle injury against the Packers last week and is iffy. If he can't play, that is a major blow. Steve Breaston is a nice third option but Arizona loses its best YAC threat.
Arizona's offensive line has been a relative bright spot, especially in pass protection, as Warner has only been sacked 24 times. However, he's been hit a lot. The unit has improved with its run blocking, but it could be better. LT Jeremy Bridges has a tough matchup with DE Cullen Jenkins.
Everything up front starts with problem-causing DT Darnell Dockett. His motor is relentless, and he's likely to make at least two potential game-changing plays when he steps on the field. Standout end Calais Campbell could be playing with a cast on his freshly broken hand. Pass pressure from this group is a must.
OLBs Clark Haggans, Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry are underrated pass rushers that have to be accounted for, especially with the gaming Arizona does with its multiple fronts. ILB Karlos Dansby, the cog of this group, must make sure he doesn't over pursue some of the cutback runs coming his way.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and SS Adrian Wilson are deserving Pro Bowlers, but they have some tough covers with Green Bay's crossing routes and use of Finely at tight end. FS Antrel Rolle has to be sharp in coverage because Jennings and Driver are beasts in the deep middle.
Neil Rackers has been bothered by a groin injury, but he is back to full strength. The big-legged Rackers made 16 of 17 field goals this season. LaRod Stephens-Howling has big-play potential on kickoff returns, and Breaston is a strong punt-return threat.
Ken Whisenhunt's even-handed demeanor doesn't match the schizophrenic nature of his team. He does seem to know when to push the right buttons. Whisenhunt will have to come up with a crafty game plan if Boldin can't go, but he seems to have answers in the big games.
The Cardinals are so unpredictable, but if there is a team in the playoffs that can turn things on in an instant, it's Arizona. Warner's experience and Fitzgerald's ability to excel in the limelight can't be overlooked. Arizona is the only NFC playoff team with more than two home losses (four).